Thursday, September 07, 2023

Summer roundup

I didn't have a lot of recovery time after the last hanji retreat and dove right into a couple of private studio tours. One was for conservators and fellows and interns from the Cleveland Museum of Art, which was fun. It was so helpful to have Taiwanese colleagues to translate a few things that I had been curious about. The funniest was that a gift from a student was a print that contained a curse word.
I also had a lot of bark to process into lace and grids for future projects. These are going to lay around for a while as I'm too scattered to focus on them.
This was round one of two marathon print sessions I had to do for one part of a large edition due end of year. It has been months in the making and a very difficult process because it's a collaboration where my collaborator is very inaccessible so I'm just doing what I can. I designed something that I thought would be easier to execute but is actually the opposite.
Then I had to zip over to D.C. for a gig. I know, I had promised myself no out-of-town work this year but the exception was made for several reasons. One: my collaborator invited me. Two: I needed major dental work. In between transporting everything for a papermaking demo and panicked formation aid making in the hotel bathroom, I visited the National Museum of Asian Art. There was a cremated Korean guy in that gorgeous stone box once upon a time, among other things.
This pic is more for the tag than the objects, because it confirms (in a very diplomatic way) that the best Korean objects are in Japan. And I'll probably never get to see them.
I was stunned by this sixth-century cosmic Buddha in the Chinese galleries. Front and back are like this.
It was classic August D.C. weather, hot and humid, barely making it from one building to another while passing through gorgeous gardens.
The National Museum of the American Indian was very moving and powerful in its main exhibits, which were mostly educational. The objects were more on the outer periphery of the circular floors. These stories on bone are my favorite, imagine making and handling! I also ate a lot and hydrated a lot here, as it was the closest museum to my hotel.
I had only seen Geo Soctomah Neptune's work on screens so it was wonderful to see it in person (albeit behind glass) at the Renwick. Their birds! Their birds.
I wish I had had the time and energy to have been able to research the bark cloth collection at the National Museum of Natural History but still enjoyed this Fijian masi (1838–42), whose fringe of bark I especially love.
From the Kiribati Islands in Micronesia, more stunning textiles (and spotted porcupine fish helmet and shark teeth/wood sword), the armor woven from coconut fiber and hair.
I was amazed to be allowed to do this papermaking demo and talk inside of a library (look at how close the book are!!) and glad to have been able to share with a large audience, mostly for UCLA Cal Rare Book School. \
Did I take the bus first thing in the morning on this day to look for a more appropriately-sized vat because I had given my friend Frank the wrong specs on a concrete mixing tray? Of course! Did I find a kitty litter bin that was perfect at a hardware store after going to three of their sections, all with separate entrances, after the sales guy told me most people buy it to soak their feet? Yes. And did I give away the gloriously large vat that Frank got for me to Kelsey so she could have her children play in it with water and sand and also use it to garden? So happily. Thank goodness for them, for helping me in what to them were simple ways but to me so necessary and so generous. Also to Minah for coming to the event and helping me clean up, get everything to the hotel, and then find a place for a quick dinner.
One of my other private studio tours was for my cousin and her daughter, and during lunch, the latter showed me her crocheting projects. Even though she is now a junior in college on the east coast, I realized I may have found another potential vessel for jiseung learning. She came over after my D.C. adventure and incredibly learned the steps from cutting down a sheet, cording, twining, and finishing a gourd in four hours! I felt like I was watching myself. I've never had a student who so immediately, with no extra props or dancing on my part or re-explaining or handouts, had it click in her head and hands what to do. She was such a natural and at once point said, "This feels so familiar." She is tracked for a wholly different career but even if this is a hobby in the evenings or she never comes back for more, I felt so fulfilled.
Esther from the hanji retreat shared this image of how she's been busy making cords, which is also very satisfying, as this is the foundation of the work. As my teacher long ago said, fully one third of jiseung is making cords. She does it while watching TV, exactly the way I developed a terrible TV habit 14 years ago in Seoul making hundreds of cords.
The much, much less fun part of summer is dealing with how the HVAC system (mini splits) have been failing since construction (which is wild, since it has only been less than three years since the building was gut rehabbed). Everyone blames someone else. The architect drew the condensation lines to be pumped UP in the wall to the roof to drain into the roof drains. The HVAC installers chose a water pump that clearly cannot keep up with the condensation, so the drain tray overflows and spills both outside and inside the wall. So the brand new wall is being degraded on both sides (the vat on the window ledge is weighted so it can stay and catch the dripping water from the outside).
Outside drips, not great. But dripping INTO the wall, really bad. Yesterday I smelled mold and touched the underside of this window frame only for my entire finger to go through what felt like only paint. No more drywall, it's gone. General contractor says the entire outer masonry should have been pointed before more walls went up. No one is taking responsibility (and of course, the city approved all of the drawings and final construction), just a bunch of men finding other people and companies to blame. Meanwhile, I am the one living/working with it. I try not to get too worked up about it but for sure have lost sleep over the years. Oh, and I had masons point my house and was horrified by their poor work and high costs and mansplaining nonsense. Why don't I hang out my window and throw money out of it? Probably would get similar results.
Back to the collaboration print, did you know I was making two different types of paper (hanji and European style) for it? Yet another brainiac move, a good way to torture myself since I'm still getting to know my beater and made some pretty embarrassing sheets, three batches, before I gave up and said, I just have to make the edition work with what I have.
But I love my Tim Moore mould. Because it's so light, I am really averse to going back to my heavier British and German moulds.
Also wanted to test new "felts" for my paper. Over 16 years ago, I would travel to residencies all over to make paper, including in Mexico, where I cut up an old dress to use as interleaving between sheets. It worked great but left the imprint of the fabric. Which at the time I must have been taught was less desirable. Now I actually love the imprint of weaving on paper, and appreciated Hannah O'Hare Bennett's article in Hand Papermaking's issue on shop talk, because she has swapped out all of her synthetic interfacing for bed sheets. I'm excited to make a new new batch of paper and see how it goes. It felt particularly perfect that I had no offcuts, both sheets I used tore down perfectly to two different sizes.
I divorced a duck from a pot and dyed both and got some unexpected results! The divorce went great.

And when I'm in the studio trying not to feel upset about men being stupid about mistakes they've made but will NEVER admit to, I twine tiny bits of bark thread. I have too many projects going on and am completely scattered. I feel terrible guilt about the things I'm not "getting done." But also am riding the waves of climate instability, migraines, chronic pain + physical therapy, while learning not to overwork myself so much. Reaching out for help has been key. [Sorry, too tired and screen timed out for links, but they are easy to find!]

Monday, August 07, 2023

Second annual summer hanji retreat

In the last week of July, we did it again! A wonderful week-long hanji retreat. This time, for the biggest group I would want to accommodate in the space, which is four. Here's Jaz making sheets.
The great thing about this group is that they all have varying degrees of expertise in papermaking, and all have the experience of doing research abroad or have plans in motion to be in the field in Asia. Jim has the most, an expert in Himalayan manuscripts (who did important early work on Tibetan paper and books before I was even a papermaker) when not in Indiana as a Lilly Library conservator. His most recent trip was in Vietnam, which is also Veronica's area of heritage and research. And Jaz will be off to Thailand soon while Esther spent time in Korea and will return end of year. This is the kind of group I can share moldy screens with because they are interested in tools and old things because of how we can read them for information.
You can see me asking Veronica if she needs more of a lift to beat. The table is already risen but for the shorter ones of us, we can stand on various constructions of scrap wood and carpet squares to get just the right height.
We started cord making on Day 2 so that they would have enough time to get them done but I should have started twining earlier. Timing was tricky with a larger group that got along so well because I hated to break up conversations.
I showed them both modified cord making (here),
and working on the floor. That seemed to work better for some.
I had asked Jim ahead of time to bring lokta papers from Nepal because I knew the stash would be good. Another distraction, shopping!
He also brought roots of the papermaking plants, and this amazing manuscript that he had commissioned by an expert in the family that over the generations has served the Dalai Lama.
We didn't get as many days for sheetforming as I had planned but everyone had time to work at the vat supervised and then left alone to sort it out (the best way to learn).

I didn't get as many pictures as I wanted because, well, I was teaching, but I was so grateful to host this particular group, and that I had Michelle available to assist all week because she did an incredible job (like this burdock pile that she sorted for me by hand, a partial harvest after two years of growing. There's more on the tree lawn but I think this should be enough for now). This is a very underwhelming recap but suffice it to say, I felt blessed to have such a great group and to be reminded why I work so hard to create spaces like this. Next full-week retreat is July 2024, but I will offer shorter retreats in fall and spring (for sure to coincide with April 8's full solar eclipse in Cleveland next year!).

My pictures from the week

Jim Canary

Jaz Graf

Veronica Pham

Esther Cho

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Summer studio time

I am pretty unhappy in summers because it's too hot, humid, bright, and the neighbors really like to mow frequently, which makes me look like a slob. BUT I have figured out a nice slow way to work that keeps me feeling less terrible about low productivity. My friend gave me coreopsis transplants last year that flowered this year.
This isn't my first batch but my first batch was maybe 14 blossoms? And they gave such incredible color that I kept going back for more, because as soon as I deadhead, the blooms come right back.
I think this was the first batch. I've since learned that the dye is very soluble so that it requires very little cooking, a big plus in hot weather.
That is not the first batch but you can see the bath already pretty potent.
This was my second round of dyeing, and I can tell because I had done the first dyebath as a shoving a ball of hanji into the dye because I didn't have a big place to spread out flat and brush on. Then I took it to the studio to start to mordant with alum. It brought the color out dramatically.
So every day I just do one round (one or two days I managed two but I don't push myself to do that): either a dye round, or a mordant round. Most batches (and these are batches of TWO sheets at a time, since I don't have enough flat space and didn't feel like laying plastic out on the floor) were dye/mordant/dye but one batch I went dye/mordant/dye/mordant/dye.
This was a scrap of a different type of hanji (different mill, different location in Korea, different papermaker), and I have no idea why the dye took in this weird uneven blush-y way, but you can see the mordant is going down starting at the right side.
This was an extra productive day because I dyed and also made bark lace.
And then started to cord some of the dyed paper, but not all of it.
I cooked for a friend on July 4 and didn't want to do my work so instead I sewed these pants out of a gift from a friend years and years ago when she used to live in the Philippines (though an anthropologist recently said it was Indonesian. I have no idea and I hope it wasn't bad spiritually for me to cut up a wrap to make pants).
One day a box arrived on the front stoop that I was not expecting. But once I opened it, surprise! The "encyclopedia of inspiration" published by Uppercase has been printed and my copies arrived.

It's generous to us all, giving a bunch of splashy spreads, and it seems they got a competent writer to make sense of all of our writing that was requested last fall!
Back in the studio, I experimented by dragging in my papermaking equipment to the beater room so that I could feel a little more at ease with a readily accessible drain. I didn't really need it but I also did design the room to be big enough to make paper if I wanted to inside of it. Something about the room makes me feel safe, more contained.
I beat up a bunch of Rives BFK scraps with a touch of premium abaca. Weirdly, the beater did not leak where I expected it to, but it did start to spurt out the back end again, so I was so glad I still have my beater lid handy. After adding sizing and then retention aid to the load in the beater with plenty of time to brush it, I took it out into three buckets and threw in burnt umber pigment I got from windmills near Amsterdam.
I used Velma's recipe for dry pigments and it worked! Then I tried to take it easy and only made a third of the batch each day instead of attempting to beat and pull the whole load in one day.
These are the sorted sheets in progress, before I'm done with the batch. You can see I am still having issues with my mini-split (remote is off the wall to remind me to tweak, manuals are on the chair). The HVAC "professionals" who installed the units I think didn't do them right because they leak. I think this is a pretty easy thing to do right and yet easier to do wrong, and here I am with lots of water dripping into a vat weighed with an old gym weight on the windowsill.
Abby from Oberlin came out to record sounds in my studio after I recorded an interview with her on campus two days prior. I had soaked these hanji scraps to run in the beater and guess what? It shorted again or whatever, where it wouldn't turn on. So clearly I need to do something with the switch/motor connection or replace both. I can't deal with any of it now. When I ran this load, it started to leak again in the likely spots and I still have to sort out a way to catch the leaks safely. Also, I finally discovered the original source of the rust bits: the bedplate! Which I DID not epoxy/seal, which was so dumb because I had so much time to do that if I had not been so ignorant. At least I know, but I don't feel like taking the underside apart again to take it out. For now....all I can say is that I do not make archival paper out of this beater!!
But the marigolds that have been in my freezer for up to 9 years have been giving me lots of cheer! I am so impressed. They work well. All I'd say is, the blossoms lose their moisture, so you want to cook with probably twice the water you would with fresh ones, it just gets sucked up into the flowers.

Next week is another annual hanji retreat! The biggest class yet, and the most mixed group, so it will be another big adventure. I also have tons of work I've been avoiding and to do that, I spent hours yesterday making samosas from scratch (the dough as well). Time to fry them up and deliver them as a belated birthday gift!

Rag & Pulp encyclopedia

Velma's recipe for dry pigment in papermaking is in the Paper and Colour book.